Sunday, 25 October 2015

Long-tailed Blue

My first ever sighting of a Long-tailed Blue in the UK and it's not a migrant. This one was born and bred in Sussex.

There had been a number of sightings of the Long-tailed Blue earlier in the year. This had led to a strong belief that eggs had been laid and that these would developed  to the imago stage by around the end of September.

The caterpillar food plant is the everlasting pea and I had spent a couple of days, at the end of last month, searching locations where the plant grew in the hope of seeing the butterfly. It was warm and conditions were ideal but I saw nothing and had given up hope catching up with them for this year.  The last thing I expected, was to see reports of a newly emerged female, in relatively cool conditions, at the end of October.

Still, reports there were, so we made our way up to Shoreham cement works Saturday morning and spent a fruitless couple of hours searching for the butterfly. With no one else turning up to look and with rain coming in we left about eleven o'clock thinking we were wasting our time. Bad mistake, the butterfly appeared just after eleven and gave good views to a few people that arrived just after we left.

Back we went this morning and this time we were in luck. The butterfly had been located in a thick bank of ivy. It was covered in dew and views were restricted but at least I had my record shot.

Fortunately it gradually dried out and as it warmed up and became more active we managed to get some better shots.

and eventually it opened its wings

October has been a quiet month. There have been a lot of good birds reported around the country but most of them seem to be avoiding Sussex. Today made up for all the missed birds, a great sighting and another first for my UK butterfly list.

Even better a fresh male has now been reported at the same site. Looks as though I might be going back there tomorrow.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Long-billed Dowitcher

A trip down to Keyhaven Marshes last week had ended up in failure. We had spent about four hours walking the sea walls, surveying the various pools and looking for the Long-billed Dowitcher and had come away without seeing it. Reports later that evening indicated that it had shown a few minutes after we left. The day was only memorable for the cold wind that cut across the marshes for the whole time we watched.

I had no intention of going back but today when Dave suggested a return visit I leapt at the chance. Bad experience or not the Long-billed Dowitcher is a bird worth seeing and on top of that I needed it for a year tick.

We thought we had spotted it, on the back of Fishtail Lagoon, whilst walking from the Lower Pennington Lane car park down to the sea wall. It was difficult to make the identification and also disappointing as the bird was too far away for a photograph. Fortunately there was a tractor complete with hedge trimming attachment parked at the top of the field. When it started its engine up again all the birds were flushed down towards the front of the lagoon. We just had to find it again.

It wasn't too difficult. The bird had settled on an island towards the front of the lagoon and was showing well.

There had been another Long-billed Dowitcher on the Keyhaven Marshes a couple of years ago but that had been a real skulking bird that had been very hard to find and difficult to photograph. It spent most of its time in the reeds well away from the bird watchers.

This bird seemed the complete opposite. It had taken two visits to find it but now it was showing well, preening and feeding in the shallow waters.

My first hundred or so shots were all wasted. Good record shots but we were too far away to get any detail.  Dropping down off the sea wall onto the footpath at the front of the lagoon just got us that little bit closer and gave the sort of detail we were looking for.

We had moved slowly and the bird did not seem at all concerned by our closer approach. We did lose it into the reeds for a few minutes when a large group of noisy walkers went past on the sea wall. When they eventually moved away the bird quickly reappeared. It seems to be in the nature of the bird to run for cover in the reeds when disturbed rather than to fly away.

Twelve thirty and we were all finished. A great mornings birding and some great pictures in the bag.

Perhaps my only disappointment was the Black-tailed Godwit below. It seemed quite happy to sit only a few metres away but there was no way it was going to oblige by showing its bill.

We called in at Farlington Marsh on the way home to see if we could improve on our Bearded Tit shots but the wind was causing a lot of movement in the reeds and if the Bearded Tits were there they were staying well down in cover.

Dave and I are out birding together two or three times a week so I often end up publish a blog, like today's, that looks very similar to his. Sometimes we go our own ways so they are different and some times I have a complete disaster and there is no blog. Last week we went up on to Cissbury Ring to look for Ring Ouzels. I got a few shots. They weren't that good but I was happily preparing my blog, that is, until Dave published his and all his pictures were better than anything I had taken.

A quick rethink and I dumped the lot so there was no blog on the Ring Ouzel. The plan was to go back and get some better pictures, or if I was lucky, to get some pictures that were better than Dave's. I did see them again but they were not easy to photograph. Here is a shot just to record the fact that I have seen them but I am still hoping for something better before they disappear for another year.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Bearded Tits

Farlington Marsh is a great site, it's just a pity about the road noise from the A27 and today, with a slight north wind blowing, the smell off petrol and diesel fume polution drifting across the marsh. Still it's worth a visit especially at this time of year when the Bearded Tits are showing.

We arrived about 0830 and made our way down to the reedbed. Dave could hear them calling and we soon had sight of a flock of seven or eight. A great result and we could have gone home happy. Except, that then another small flock arrived, then another and another and so on. We had estimated twenty five to thirty birds on visits in previous years but it was soon clear that the numbers were well above that this time.

I counted thirty five birds in flocks of 16, 14, and 5 heading off in rapid succession towards the eastern side of the reedbed. Yet there were still dozens visible over the area we were watching and many more that were hidden within the reeds. It was impossible to carry out a count but a conservative estimate would be 60 and the number was probably closer to a hundred.

At one stage this small tree held about fourteen Bearded Tits but unfortunately I was too close and had too much lens on so could not get the picture.

Photographic opportunities were a bit limited. We were standing on the west wall and looking east into the reeds which means that you are taking shots into the sun. If you want pictures I would suggest going along mid afternoon when the sun will be over your shoulder.

I am not sure if these birds are all resident at Farlington or if some are just passing through but the numbers seen are hugely encouraging. Lets hope that a few of them move along the coast and take up residence at Pagham Harbour.